The first chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, begins with a long list of the Genealogy of Jesus spanning 42 generations, ending with verses 16 and 17:

“Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary. Of her was born Jesus who is called the Messiah.

Thus the total number of generations from Abraham to David is fourteen generations; from David to the Babylonian exile, fourteen generations; from the Babylonian exile to the Messiah, fourteen generations.” (Matthew 1: 1 – 17)

To the Jews, genealogy and pedigree were very important things (Fr. Tom Curran). A person’s family tree determined whether he was a pure Jew or not, and this was important to the Jews. However, in Jesus’s genealogy for those who are brave enough to read the entire first chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, we find some surprising twists and turns. First, women, who would normally not be mentioned in any genealogy, were mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus: Tamar, Ruth, Rahab, and Mary – reclaiming and emphasizing the equal worth of women. Second, it is important to note that Jesus’s genealogy was not perfect. Solomon was born out of King David’s adulterous affair with Uzziah’s wife, while Tamar was a seductress who seduced her own father, and Rahab was a prostitute who obtained salvation by her act of charity. Yet these are mentioned to emphasize how Jesus came to redeem and perfect the imperfect, that out of the flawed, it is possible with God for good to be raised up, even with the outcast, the worst of the worst.

This Christmas, it may be worthwhile, as you meditate upon the genealogy of Jesus, to trace your own family tree, to excavate the areas of woundedness, and to reflect upon the moments of God’s Graces and Providence. For example as I trace my own genealogy, I can see how God’s salvation entered and redeemed my family line with the first person being baptised into the Catholic Faith.

Praying the Jesse Tree is also a way to reflect upon the Salvific Hand of God at work in our chronology. While the origins of the Jesse Tree remain unknown, it is attributed to early Church efforts to further reclaim the tradition of the Christmas Tree, after St. Boniface cut down a pagan oak, and pointed to a still-standing fir tree as a symbol of peace and immortality and that which points to the dwelling place of God. The Jesse Tree is named from Isaiah 11:1 “A shoot shall come from the stock of Jesse, and a branch shall grow from its roots.” Jesse was the father of King David, and on the tree are placed illustrated ornaments which represent the people, events, and prophecies in Salvation History, that lead up to the birth of the Saviour, Jesus Christ.

A set of Jesse Tree ornaments may be purchased from the Printery House of Conception Abbey at:

Or you may choose to make your own with your family and friends with the templates here:

By Brian Bartholomew Tan